I've made a post earlier about this book, however, having read a bit further, I have found it to be an exciting book, although it is also a bit intimidating, with no knowledge of teaching. I am glad it’s our book for this class as, on the other hand, it is my belief that studying in order to teach a subject also can be a means for building a stronger practical foundation.
This text is 300+ pages, which includes short bio's on each of the 50 contributors. The authors, Gregory Sholette, Chloe Bass, and Social Practice Queens, appear to have set out on a mission to promote the concepts and idea of using art as a pedagogical pathway for social development.
Dr. Gregory Sholette is a notable artist, writer, and social activist producing politically engaged art, and among a prolific number of other things, he documents and reflects upon decades of activist art that, for its ephemerality, politics, and market resistance, might otherwise remain invisible.
Chloe Bass is a Master of Fine Arts graduate of Brooklyn College CUNY, now teaching as an Assistant Professor of Art at the Queens College CUNY. She is a conceptual artist and works in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. She produces work that examines intimacy, and investigates where patterns hold or break as group sizes expand in daily life.
Jointly, they run Social Practice Queens (SPQ) which is a partnership between Queens College of CUNY and Queens Museum. Together they are facilitating a unique and new MFA in social practice, integrating studio work with social tactical interventionalist and cooperative forms. SPQ is essentially the heart of the book Art as Social Action.
As part of the Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research for the MFA concentration, SPQ faculty coleader Dr. Sholette, and artist Chloe Bass, have written the book Art as Social Action, a textbook on socially engaged art practices.
Kicking off the journey through this textbook, the authors establish the readers understanding of their mindset with a couple of short essays on the subject of art and its pedagogical impact on social development. However, from that point forward, the book is largely a collection of lesson plans. It is chock full of cases where art was an intrinsic component of the social or cultural learning experience.. The first group of plans is eleven chapters with the core learning experience being about Art as Social Research, Listening, and Self-Care.
Each easy to follow lesson plan is introduced, explaining its source. The introduction is followed by a description of the assignment, a couple of paragraphs of the steps taken by teacher and students, a succinct description of what actually happened and the results, and then closed with an overview and suggested bibliography. The plans are clearly experimental and a change from the status quo.
Despite being focused upon a narrow subject within social development, this first group of plans were a great example of the breadth of ideas one could draw from. Each contributor's academic approach could be studied and perhaps one could follow up by reaching out to the lesson plan author in order to explore their additional work as it pertains to the subject of the section.
The purpose of all this content is, of course, the development of a social practice pedagogy and the authors do not leave that intention unclear. The book includes prescribed steps and methods supporting the goal. The Pedagogy Group, one of the contributors, give insights on teaching principles that educators with commitments similar to their own might find useful. As well, there are additional essays, there are interviews, and the sections continue with a wide variety of social action lesson plans.
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Rob J Phillips